A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Will Research on Chimps Be Banned?

Mother and baby at a German zoo. Photo by Claudia Otte

It’s looking increasingly like the end is in sight for the use of chimpanzees in invasive research in the United States.

The Washington Post reports that the role of chimpanzees in medical research is at a crossroads. The article says that while chimps were “crucial” in developing vaccines for hepatitis A and B and in studies of HIV, chimp research is losing its appeal.

“The European Union banned the practice last year, leaving the United States and Gabon as the only countries conducting medical research on chimpanzees. At drug companies, chimp research is waning with the emergence of lower-cost, higher-tech alternatives.”

There’s been increasing opposition to the use of chimpanzees in invasive research. Last year, there was considerable outcry against the plan for a group of aging, retired chimpanzees in New Mexico to be sold to a laboratory in Texas and put back into invasive research. Opposition to the plan was led by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

And more recently, the release of two movies, Nim Chimpsky and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, has brought the whole issue to the forefront of public attention.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, writes aboutthe bipartisan legislation now making its way through Congress to end invasive research on great apes in this country.

“I am 62. So are some of the chimpanzees who were captured as youngsters from their families in Africa … to be used in experiments here in the U.S. While I have been traveling the world, working on what I care about, enjoying personal relationships, hiking, and, most recently, watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes, many of my chimpanzee peers were restricted to sitting every day and lying every night on a concrete slab in a barren cage with steel bars and no windows. These chimpanzees, hundreds of them, have been alone all those decades … Being possessed of the ability to anticipate, they could only dread the next ordeal—a lung biopsy, perhaps, an injection, an infection—who knows? They don’t.”

Last year, the European Union banned the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, and now the United States and Gabon are the only countries in the world that conduct these experiments. (European companies have been outsourcing some of their medical experiments to the United States.)

Now it looks as though the end may be in sight – possibly by the end of this year.